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Quick Smoke: Crowned Heads Le Careme Robusto

24 Jun 2017

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

The Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper on this Crowned Heads offering is so rough and gritty you might think the rollers finished their work with sandpaper. Introduced last year, Le Careme features an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and filler from Nicaragua. (The name, in case you’re wondering, comes from a French chef who pioneered haute cuisine.) It’s a tasty cigar with some sweetness, a bit of spice, and leather. In my hand, the five-inch stick feels smaller than the stated 50-ring gauge, and it tends to burn fast, straight, and with excellent smoke production.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Don’t Get Slammed on the New-Release Treadmill

19 Jun 2017

[Editors’ Note: The following article was first published at in May 2015, though the advice it contains is as sound now as it was two years ago. It is reprinted today in anticipation of the fast-approaching 2017 IPCPR Trade Show.]

Cigar Shop

One of the great things about cigars is the incredible choice available. Unfortunately, it’s one of the not-so-great things as well.

Every day seems to bring news of a new release, a limited edition, a store special—or, more likely, several of each. One email I received recently touted five new limited cigars. As we approach the annual summer trade show, the stream of new announcements will almost certainly become a flood.

A dedicated cigar lover could go crazy, and broke, trying to keep up.

I suggest you don’t. Go crazy or broke, that is.

Now, I’m not recommending you forgo new cigars. Far from it. I’m just advocating a little thought and preparation to maximize the enjoyment potential of the purchases you do make.

First, remember that selling cigars is not like selling most other consumables. The premium cigar market is small and barely growing, if at all. A large percentage of cigar smokers have only a handful of sticks a week and rarely venture beyond a few brands.

Two companies—Altadis and General—dominate the market; add in a few other big players like Padrón, Fuente, and Rocky Patel, and you see why smaller manufacturers face a tough battle. They’re fighting for a thin slice of a not-so-big pie.

For many of those small manufacturers, social media has had a huge impact. Even though the cigar digerati is a relatively small subset of the market, it’s a vocal and influential component. Generating buzz and producing the next hot stick can make the difference between being a success and an also-ran. All of which leads to more releases, more limited editions, more store exclusives, and on and on.

Here are three thoughts to help you evaluate your purchases:

1) Pay attention to the manufacturers you really like. As any regular reader knows, I am a big fan of Aging Room cigars. Their blends just about always appeal to my taste. I’ve even gone so far as to violate a basic rule of cigar purchases by buying a box of a new offering before I’d tried one. Other favorites, like Fuente and My Father, also always get a close look from me.

2) Pay attention to tobaccos. Think about those you like and those you don’t. This can be tricky, I’ll be the first to admit. For example, I generally dislike San Andrés. But there are some using it, like E.P. Carrillo’s La Historia, that I think are terrific. Still, given the choice between a new smoke featuring that Mexican leaf and one that doesn’t, I’ll usually pick the cigar without it. Similarly, recognizing tobaccos you usually enjoy can be a deciding factor.

3) Look at the manufacturer’s output. Some companies put out so many new cigars, it is difficult to believe they all can be special. On the other hand, when someone like Padrón puts a new smoke on the market, it is worthy of special notice.

George E

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Tip: Don’t Lose Your Cool This Summer

14 Jun 2017

With Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer in the U.S., now past, most of the country is looking at increasingly hotter temperatures and higher humidity levels.

For cigar enthusiasts, that can also mean rising anxiety levels as they fret over the conditions in their humidors. Here are some tips that I hope can help reduce your stress.

Whether you prefer the “standard” recommendation of 70° F. and 70% relative humidity or something else is, to some degree, a matter of taste. Many smokers these days favor humidity levels in the low- to mid-60s range with temperatures around 65° F.

Significantly higher or lower humidity levels can result in cigars that are too wet or too dry and won’t taste good or perform well. Temperatures much higher than 72° or so risk tobacco beetles hatching if larvae are present.

Only you can decide what settings you prefer.

But once you’ve decided, perhaps the most important step is to maintain relative constancy.

Here are some of the conclusions I’ve reached over the years.

First, I don’t believe cigars are like delicate flowers that will quickly wither and die outside a narrow comfort range of temperature and relative humidity. Sure, leave one resting on the dashboard in July and you can soon kiss it goodbye. But shifts of a few degrees or percentage points aren’t remotely fatal.

So don’t get obsessed. I’ve monitored temperature and relative humidity with two sensors in my cooled cabinet humidor for more than two years. And I can attest what you think is going on inside isn’t always the case.

For example, temperature and relative humidity levels can vary by several points from one shelf to another. (And, yes, my humidor has fans—three of them, in fact—to circulate the air.)

There are also usually differences of a few points in readings at different spots inside the humidor itself, as well as within a cigar box at the same spot. Some boxes hold both incredibly well; others, not so much.

It’s also important to bear in mind a few facts about humidity:

1) It is extremely difficult to measure precisely without very high quality scientific equipment.

2) We’re talking about relative humidity, which means the percentage changes when the temperature changes. That’s why it’s relative.

3) The warmer the air, the more moisture it can hold. So when the same amount of moisture is present at different temperatures, the relative humidity percentage will be lower in the warmer air.

4) Humid air tends to rise.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to keep your cool this summer, at least where your cigars are concerned.

George E

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Aging Room Pelo de Oro Scherzo

10 Jun 2017

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of Aging Room cigars. So when I spotted Pelo de Oro Scherzo on the shelf, I had to try it. Released last year, the single-size smoke gets its name from a finicky tobacco strain susceptible to disease. A.J. Fernandez grew it on his Nicaraguan farm and rolled the cigars at his factory. I was expecting a golden experience, but this was the rare Aging Room cigar that didn’t wow me. The Pelo de Oro tobacco certainly gives the cigar a different profile, but I found it a bit strong, with some sharpness and a very long finish. I’ll likely try it again, but for now I can recommend it only if you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary.

Verdict = Hold.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Arturo Fuente Hemingway Signature Maduro

28 May 2017

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

I’m not sure how long this dark treat had been in my humidor, but it had been quite a while. It’s also been quite a while since we reviewed this not-so-easy-to-find perfecto—more than seven years. From start to finish, it’s a terrific, rich smoke, with classic maduro flavors of coffee, chocolate, and tobacco sweetness. Keep an eye out for it and enjoy.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Room 101 HN 305

20 May 2017

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Once Matt Booth announced earlier this year he was ending his partnership with Davidoff and exiting the cigar business, it was only a matter of time before the discounts began on his Room 101 lines. I recently picked up a 10-pack of these robustos (5 x 50) for $2.25 each. At that price, the HN 305 is easy to like. With a complex blend of a Honduran Criollo ’98 wrapper, Brazilian Mata Fina binder, and filler from Honduras and the Dominican Republic, the flavors may not blow you away, but they also aren’t likely to disappoint. I’ve smoked several and all have performed excellently. Keep an eye out for a sale if you’d like to try something a little different.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: HR Blue Corona Gorda

13 May 2017

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

This is one fine smoke. A dark maduro that melds the typical sweetness and coffee flavors with enough spice and strength from the Nicaraguan filler to keep it more than interesting. The newer cigars from Hirochi Robaina haven’t gotten nearly the buzz that his first releases a few years back generated. They also don’t seem to be particularly easy to find. When I picked this smoke up at a cigar shop I visit infrequently, it was the first time I’d seen it. But after enjoying this Corona Gorda (5.5 x 46, $7.95) treat, I have no doubt I’ll be on the lookout for more.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: HR Cigars